When it comes to architectural masterpieces, what examples come to our mind?
Maybe a modern structure like Burj Khalifa, one of the tallest buildings in world? Or the Sydney Opera House? Or maybe something more historical like the Taj Mahal (the mausoleum, not the hotel and casino in New Jersey)? Or maybe the one that’s designed by renowned and famous architect like Sir Norman Foster (Apple Park)?
An architecture is not only about designing and building some bland structure. A great architecture has become a masterpiece that reflects the philosophy and vision of the owners (and architects) which the outcome has become much of a ultimate landmark at specific location and even a country. Buildings like Petronas Twin Towers has become an icon for Malaysia as much as Eiffel Tower for France or Great Wall for China.
And it also becomes a great attraction for tourists. Take Burj Khalifa for example. The building (and Dubai itself) has attracted close to 15.8 million visitors in 2017, an increase of 6.2% from a year earlier (according to report here). And Marina Bay Sands, Singapore has become the most Instagrammed hotel in the world in 2017.
So we have office buildings, hotels, performing arts centre, religious places, convention centres, communications towers and even a mausoleum as examples of great architecture masterpieces of our time.
So who’s the next candidate?
Renewable energy farms.
If You Wanna Do Something Right, Do It Great
Modern renewable energy farms are no longer a portrayed the image of our grandparents’ energy plant like 50 years ago with smoke coming out from its chimneys. As the importance of renewable and sustainable energy getting more and more attention, a renewable energy plants has moved from a boring design to an architectural masterpieces of its own. Although some renewable energy plants still can’t kick the image of old-styled conventional energy plant (a good example would be Iceland’s geothermal plant), the design and architecture of wind and solar farms in places like China, USA and Europe has started to become more like a tourists attraction and becoming an icon for the region or country itself.
Never one who failed to come up with some design that caught everyone’s attention, China has designed several of their solar farms to an image of a panda, one of its popular national icon and ‘national-treasure’. A great example of this would be the planned panda-shaped solar farm developed Panda Green Energy Group in Shanxi.
And no, they don’t stop at one or two such plants. Panda Green Energy Group already planned to build the next one hundred plants with similar architecture. Once the first two plants come to operational, it will generate enough energy to power 10,000 households per year for the next 25 years. Each plant is estimated to cut emissions from greenhouse gasses of around 2.74 million tonnes for the next 25 years.
And why stop at land?
A new solar farm in Huainan, Anhui is actually a floating power station located at a man-made lake, which previously was a coal mine until subsidence and heavy rain turned it into a lake. Those solar panels float on the surface of water ranges from 4 to 10 meters. Oh, it’s also the world’s biggest floating solar farm, with a capacity to produce 40 megawatts of electricity, enough to power as many as 15,000 homes per year.
No news yet whether tourists are actually allowed to visit those energy farms, but let’s hope one day we could.
Walney Wind Farm is group of three offshore wind farms located at Walney Island, capable to generate more than 1 gigawatt in total, enough to propel it to become the largest offshore wind farm in the world with close to 200 wind turbines to generate at a load-factor of 43%.
As it is located about 15 km from the shore, there are no news yet if there’s a boat that can be rented to visit the wind farm. But never say never.
United States of America
Florida has Disneyland. And Disneyland has Disneyfarm. A solar farm that is.
Although not actually a direct deal between Duke Energy and Walt Disney (rather with Reedy Creek Improvement District), the solar farm powers the Disneyland’s four theme parks and its 40,000 hotel room within its area. The so-called Disney Solar Farm contains about 48,000 solar panels and shaped with its iconic mouse ears (what else should we expect?) and it generates around 5 megawatt at its peak output. Although with capacity factor of 24%, the project should be lauded and its a good attempt for the district and Walt Disney to move to renewable energy.
And if one day they could turned the solar farm as another tourists attraction on top of their existing theme parks, that could nurture a future generation of climate-change-aware kids. Never underestimate the power of Disney and what they can do to spark our imaginations.
While in Nevada, the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project was commissioned in 2016 and capable to generate more than 110 megawatts with more than 10,000 heliostats. As impressive and futuristics as it looks, it has 1.1 gigawatt hours of energy storage. And if you think you can stand the heat and won’t get vaporised like those poor 130 birds, go ahead and take a selfie yourself.
The Planta Solar 10 and 20 (PS10 and PS20 respectively) are two solar farms in Andalusia, Spain which together generates around 31 megawatt of electrical power through close to 2000 solar panels called heliostats.
Maybe the design is not as cool as Disney but it still beats some other plain solar farms in other part of the world.
Selfie, Wefie and TikTok
So we already got ourselves some architectural marvels of renewable energy plants around the world instead of plain, boring energy plant that looks very unattractive and unsexy. In this age of social media proliferation and influencer, maybe we should open up a bit the possibility to turn these plants to become a tourists attraction, or at least available to public albeit on a limited time and number of visitors per day.
Yes, it’s not actually advisable to play around and taking selfie, wefie or TikTok at those places as it’s not built for tourists. But so as the top of some of the highest buildings in the world like where some people even risking their lives just for the sake of 15 minutes of fame. Instead of keeping it off the public and make some teenagers even more eager to take selfies there (and fell to their death), perhaps we should let them do it (of course within specific boundary and limits).
After all, we never knew what those teenagers would become one day. Perhaps some of them would be the one who will design our future power plant or operate it. And it could be from the small act of letting them see and enjoy some of current architectural masterpieces.